Thursday, February 2, 2012

David Guetta "Turn Me On" Song Analysis

This week's song analysis is #2 on the Ultimate Chart and is at the tip of a trend in music that's starting to snowball. The song is "Turn Me On" by French DJ David Guetta, featuring singer Nicki Minaj.

Electronic dance music has been a huge underground scene for a number of years now, and we've seen flashes of it on the top 40 charts, but now it's beginning to break through in a big way and David Guetta is leading the charge by adding star vocalists to what was once purely electronic music.

Guetta was one of the first to join this trend on his 2009 album One Love, which included the hit singles "When Love Takes Over" (featuring Kelly Rowland), "Gettin' Over You" (featuring Chris WillisFergie and LMFAO) and "Sexy Bitch" (featuring Akon). The last song hit the top five in the United States and all three reached #1 in the UK. The album also featured another internationally known single called "Memories" (featuring Kid Cudi), which became a top five hit in many countries. 

Guetta has sold over three million albums and 15 million singles worldwide and is currently one of the most sought-after producers in the music business.

As with all song analysis, we'll look at the song form, the arrangement, the sound and the production.

The Song
"Turn Me On" is a very basic song form with one twist in the prechorus. The form looks like this:

Intro, Verse, B Section, Interlude, Chorus, Verse, B Section, Interlude, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus

Every section is 8 bars long except for the Interlude (the "Oh" part before the chorus) which is only 4 bars, and that's the only thing that changes the song up a bit form-wise.

The Arrangement
There aren't a lot of elements or layers to the song by the very nature of electronic dance music. Instead of a drum kit and bass, the rhythm element is made up of a huge kick drum and bass sound, which take up so much sonic space that's it's difficult to fit additional foundation instruments in.

What's very interesting in "Turn Me On" is the way the claps and high hat are used to develop the song. Usually a song is developed by adding additional arrangement elements or additional instrument or vocal layers. On this song percussion is used to accomplish the same thing. Here's how it's done:

In the first verse you only hear the kick and bass sounds, but doubled claps in stereo are used to develop the B section. In verse 2 the claps continue, but a hat sound is used to develop the 2nd B section.

Here's what the arrangement elements look like:

  * The Foundation: Bass and kick sounds

  * The Rhythm: Arpeggiated synth line, claps from the first B section onward, hat sound in the second B section.

  * The Pad: A synth in the bridge

  * The Lead: The vocal

  * The Fills: Background vocal line at the end of the chorus, arpeggiated synth in the choruses, vocal answers in the first half of the bridge

The Sound
Another function of electronic dance music is the fact that distortion is normally viewed as something to be embraced and not rejected. There's plenty of it here that's a big part of various sounds, but even the vocal (which you'd expect to be clean) has a lot of distortion.

There's a slight ambience sound on most of the syths, but most of the layering on both the syths and vocals comes from timed delays that are long enough to hear and fill in the holes between phrases.

A couple of cool things are the way the the vocal is manipulated in the Interludes by panning from left to right channel and back again, all the while modulating it gradually into full distortion at the end. I also loved the use of the stereo claps that enter in the first B section.

The Production
I think a big reason why this song is a hit is its excellent dynamics. The song goes from a whisper to a roar and back again several times during the song, which keeps your attention on a rather uninteresting song form.

Want an example? Listen how the song starts off quiet, gets a bit bigger during the first verse, a bit more during the B section, then comes down to just a vocal (over a gurgling synth) during the interlude, then smacks you over the head on the chorus. The same happens during the second verse, B, interlude and chorus, then again from the bridge to the last chorus. The tension and release is why it remains interesting.

Send me your song analysis requests here.



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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Are You Ready For Smart Headphones?

smart earbuds image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog
Headphones are a pretty mundane piece of audio gear, which is precisely why it's time to smarten them up a bit. I don't know about you, but one of the things about phones that always bothers me is when the the cups get mixed up where the right and left one are reversed. Thanks to a bit of technology, that may not be a problem that much longer.

Researchers at the Igarashi Design Interface Project recently developed a set of "universal headphones" that are so smart that they can do the following:
  • Sense when you've placed an earbud or headphone on the wrong ear, then change the channels to accomodate. 
  • Sense when two people are sharing earbuds and change the channels so each earbud contains both the left and right channels (and even allow each listener to hear different tracks at the same time).
  • Automatically pause and resume play depending if the phones are on or off your ears.
The way the development team came up with right/left ear sensing is by attaching a proximity sensor to one of the earpieces to measure the distance from the ear. When placed in the right ear, the sensor detects the ear behind it. If it's then placed in the left ear, it knows that the distance has changed and then signals a on-board processor to switch channels.

It's so cool when old technology like speakers, mics and headphones get a new technological twist. Although these updates aren't available in a commercial product yet, expect to see them soon.

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Help support this blog. Any purchases made through our Amazon links help support this website with no cost to you.


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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jeff Beck's Guitar Collection

Here's one for all of the guitar players that read this blog. Jeff Beck is one of the most revered guitar players ever (and rightfully so), but you don't see him interviewed very often. In the video below Jeff talks about his main guitars and how they came into his possession, so you get two for one - an interview plus some guitar talk. Note how many were given to him by fans. That's what happens when you're a guitar god, I guess.




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Help support this blog. Any purchases made through our Amazon links help support this website with no cost to you.


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Monday, January 30, 2012

"Here Comes The Sun" Lost Guitar Solo

Here's a real gem. It's the parts of George Harrison's famous "Here Comes The Sun" from The Beatles famous Abbey Road album that didn't make the final mix. I don't know how long this will stay up before the EMI sends a take down to YouTube, so enjoy it while you can.




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Help support this blog. Any purchases made through our Amazon links help support this website with no cost to you.


You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.


Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ken Scott Answers Your Questions

Ken Scott and Bobby Owsinski at Total Access Recording from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog
Ken Scott and yours truly at Total Access Recording last week
You may remember that I asked for questions for the legendary producer/engineer Ken Scott last week for our presentation at the Alfred Music Publishing booth at NAMM. Of course, Ken worked with everyone from The Beatles, David Bowie, Supertramp, Mahavishnu Orchestra, America, Devo, Kansas, The Tubes, Missing Persons, Duran Duran and many many more, so whenever he speaks about the studio you find some pearls of wisdom. As promised, here are the questions and  along with the answers, as well as a little bonus towards the end.


Bob from Vancouver asked: How do you ensure that you have a balanced frequency spectrum in your mix? As in the right balance between lows, mids, and highs...
First of all, what is a balanced frequency spectrum? It should sound the way you want it to sound, and sometimes that means there’s going to me more high end and sometimes more low end. Take Reggae records, for example. It would seem they’re completely out of wack frequency-wise, but that’s exactly what people loved about them. As long as you’re using good monitors and get it sounding the way you want it, it's cool.


Fred Decker asked: What suggestions would you offer to a band to make their pre-production efforts most effective? Any comments on arrangement, song-structure or how to make the music groove? 
How to make it groove is don’t use Pro Tools to put everything on the bloody grid. I don’t like a click track that’s the same tempo from beginning to end because musicians frequently speed up when it comes to the chorus. I’ve always felt that you get things to groove more when using a click if I nudge it up slightly for the choruses and bring it back down again afterwards.

In preproduction you're just getting to know the material, but not to the point where when you go in the studio and something doesn’t quite work, you don't have the ability to move on and change what doesn’t work. You’re not stuck trying and trying to make it work because sometimes it doesn’t work when you get into the studio and listen under a microscope.

Also go through and make sure that everyone is playing the same thing. Listen to the parts and make sure they work together.


Bruce Alger asked: I would like an overview of how KS mixed Supertramp's Crime of the Century (and his methods of doing the vocals on that one).
We weren’t afraid to try things on that album. Different vocal effects were things like having them sing from different distances away from the mics. That was important especially with the two vocalists when they were answering each other. We experimented with different planes where one was right in your face while the other one had some distance on it. We weren’t afraid to experiment is the easiest way to explain the overview.


David King's question was: From your experience working with The Beatles. Do you believe they would have achieved success without the involvement of George Martin in their career?  (I tend to believe that he played as critical a role in their success as did any individual member of the band.)
Probably not, because in the early stages he was exceedingly important in guiding them in song structure and arrangements and that kind of thing. It eventually reached the point where they were going full-tilt on their own and he was less important, but in the early stages he was definitely needed, so there is a strong chance that they wouldn’t have done it without him.


Chuck Sims wanted to know: Ringo had left the band when they recorded "Back in the USSR." It's often been reported that the drums are a composite track, with John, Paul and George all contributing. Do you have any recollections about the sessions for that song? (There's a bass VI and a lot of debate about various instrumental roles on that selection). 
To answer this question, Ken asked me to use an excerpt from his upcoming book Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust (it will be out in May).
“By the time “Back In The USSR” was recorded, Ringo had temporarily quit the band. It wasn’t that he was in the studio and stormed out, it was more like he just didn’t turn up one day. The sessions were undisciplined enough that whatever any of the others felt like doing at any given time is what they did, so he never knew if he was going to be playing or not. He didn’t feel needed or wanted and he was tired of waiting around, so he just decided not to show up anymore.
I don’t remember the incident being spoken about too much at the time, and the whole thing was treated just as a “Ringo’s not here today” kind of thing, so we just carried on as usual. We recorded the basic track of “Back In The USSR” first with Paul playing drums, George on lead guitar, and John on bass, but there were parts of Paul’s drum track that just weren’t good enough, so we recorded a second drum track. This time the drums were played by both George and John at the same time on the same kit, one of them playing kick and snare while the other played the cymbals and toms, or something like that. Between the two tracks, we got one solid drum track, so we mixed them all together and that’s the drum track that you hear on the record. I never got a chance to record Paul playing drums well, although I know he did do it on a few of the songs on the album that were recorded outside of EMI.
In the end, Ringo returned a week or so later, and George H had the entire Number 2 studio decked out with flowers and a banner that said, “Welcome Back, Ringo.” He was happy to be back, and they were extremely happy to have him back.”


Chuck asked another: David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust is one of the greatest rock LPs ever... when working on it did you or the band have any idea that it would be such a defining moment, or was it just 'another' album? 
They’re never just “another album.” Hopefully they’re not, anyway. We never knew that we’d be talking about it in 40 years time; absolutely not. We were making records that if people were still talking about them 6 months later, then we’d done our jobs properly. 40 years later we had no idea whatsoever.


Chuck asked still another: Are there any favourite moments or tracks on Ziggy for you?
"Moonage Daydream" is my favourite.


Stay tuned for more info and excerpts on Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust as they become available.

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Help support this blog. Any purchases made through our Amazon links help support this website with no cost to you.


You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.


Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

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